A success formula – empathy + self-awareness + patience + work-ethic

A simple success formula. Four words. You’ve heard them. You know them. But have you ever contemplated their potential impact? Your journey to success starts here, but it’s not going to be an easy one – there is no secret.

The success formula. Did you just start paying attention? Why though? Is it because you feel you haven’t quite succeeded yet? If that’s the case, be warned. This isn’t the secret. It’s going to require a lot more than just sending good vibes into the universe. It’s going to require a shift in perspective, some serious graft and tenacity. It’s going to require you to develop a deep love of failure, replacing the fear. It’s going to require separation from your insecurities. In other words, start reacting the same way to positive feedback as you do to negative feedback. This may seem overwhelming, but it’s a process. All you have to do is learn to love the journey, without focusing on the destination.

Quick digression

I’m not a fanboy. Seldom do I dote over celebrities. My fandom is limited to the likes of Jack Johnson (with a vibe as chilled as Banana Pancakes), Gordon Ramsay (brutally honest, but an exceptional change management practitioner), J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter – need I say more?), Ted Mosby (yes I know, not real, but the archetypal character when it comes to pursuing love).

Then there is Gary Vaynerchuk. A social media mogul, a five-time New York Times bestseller (without actually penning a book), owner of Vayner X and a major advocate of the power of the internet. Without meaning to, Gary Vee has become a world-renowned motivational speaker, with a philosophy that inspires a shift in perspective, elevating offence above defence.

The success formula

Over the past few years, I have consumed hundreds of hours of Gary Vee’s content and have noticed that there are recurring themes. I have distilled them into a success formula.

  • Empathy
  • Self-awareness
  • Patience
  • Work-ethic.

Nothing revolutionary. But intense commitment to their application is required.

Let’s turn our attention to the four words – the building blocks of the success formula.


This requires a significant amount of EQ. Being present and acknowledging one’s own feelings without losing sight of the feelings / underlying intent of the other person.

Have you ever posted a video on YouTube and received some nasty feedback? I’m not talking about constructive criticism. I’m talking about blatant, uncalled-for hate. You’re ugly. You’re stupid. You should stop. This can cause some serious hurt. Worst case scenario, you never post again.

Let’s shift your perspective. Have you ever stopped to consider the life @therealpussinboots79 (our hypothetical hater) leads? Imagine taking the time, firstly to watch your video, but then to comment negatively. I’m almost 100% sure you would never even think of doing something like that.

This type of thinking makes it easier to practise empathy, rather than internalising the comments, which inevitably makes it harder for you to share your talents with the world. Imagine if you felt sorry for @therealpussinboots79. This compassion replaces your hurt, which safeguards your self-esteem and maintains your confidence. Wish them well and continue to do you your thing the way only you know how.


Knowing one’s self. Man, this is a powerful one. Sadly, the society we live in spends way too much time focusing on its weaknesses. Can you imagine outsourcing those weaknesses instead (to those who view them as strengths), and spending the same time and money on fine tuning your strengths?

Gary Vee is a perfect example of this. He was a really poor student and I often see grammatical and spelling errors in his posts on Twitter and Facebook. Yet he is a five-time New York Times bestseller. How did he manage this? He hired a ghostwriter. He didn’t need to be a brilliant writer. Someone else could do that. He honed in on his gift of storytelling. Is it still his book, you ask? Of course – it’s not about the writing. It’s all about the message.

Naturally, the first step to self-awareness is introspection. Reflecting on your likes and dislikes. What are you good at? What are you bad at? This requires you to immerse yourself in a range of experiences. Try things. Some you will like, some you won’t. Some you’ll be naturally great at, and some not so much. The sweet spot is identifying what you like and what you are good at and finding a way to monetise that. This has a good chance of resulting in a happy life.


This is a tough one. Especially if you are under the age of thirty, hoping to wake up to a viral post that propels you into influencer stardom overnight. To sum it up in a simple sentence: patience starts by acknowledging that all good things take time.

The trick to embracing patience is to start focusing on enjoying the process, without continuously longing for the outcome. Once you start enjoying the process, every day becomes fulfilling and happiness is no longer a fleeting moment. If you focus on the outcome, the journey becomes less enjoyable, your happiness is fleeting and attention is immediately turned to the next outcome. Essentially you live in the future, and fast forward the present.

You’ve probably heard the story of the tortoise and the hare – slow and steady wins the race. Gary Vee is all about speed and patience. He overcomes this contradiction in style, by relating his message of patience to the macro – macro patience, micro speed. Be agile and act fast in the short-term. But understand that the journey to your macro success will take time.


I love the word graft. No one who has ever been successful has ever done it without insane amounts of hard work. There is a quote by William Shakespeare that I once disputed in a Grade 9 English speech. It went something like this: ”Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” He scored a one out of three for this one.

Walt Disney wasn’t born with a pencil in his hand, Barack Obama’s first words were not “Yes we can” and Michael Jordan could not slam dunk before he could walk. It’s a process combining talent, graft and serendipity. Ultimately, anyone you aspire to emulate has taken that place in your mind as a result of the enormous amounts of hard work put in.

Malcolm Gladwell popularised the 10,000 hours principle. To become a true expert or master performer, he believes that it takes 10,000 hours of practice. That is a total of 417 days of pure commitment to your craft. Nearly a year and a half. And this is a rule of thumb. It doesn’t include inherent talent, access to opportunity and quality of your practice.

This isn’t meant to deter you. Or create the perception that the mountain is too difficult to climb. It’s intended to give you a feeling for the work required to truly succeed. You may not necessarily want to become a master or expert, so it may take less than 10,000 hours. Nevertheless, a significant amount of hard work is required if you desire to succeed. It’s about being practical and is intimately related to patience.

What is success anyway?

In short, it’s about waking up happy.

Like anything, the four components of the success formula require practice. Try and fail. Love the process. Embrace your failure. Don’t be deterred by your haters. Focus on you – the only thing you can control. And remember, perfection is a figment of your imagination.

Empathy + self-awareness + patience + work ethic = your new mantra. Stick it on your fridge and apply them every day. Strive to wake up happy. If you do, then you’ve already won.

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